Thomas & Betts Corp. (T&B), Memphis, Tenn., has sold its plastic pipe operations to Mitsubishi Corp., Tokyo, Japan. The PVC conduit business will now be known as Prime Conduit, a stand-alone electrical conduit business along with some specialty extruded and rigid PVC products.

The former Carlon PVC conduit business generated annual sales of about $230 million in 2007. Now under the Prime Conduit name, it will be managed from Cleveland by the same management team and will operate plants and pipeyards in Nazareth, Pa.; Oklahoma City; High Springs, Fla.; and Woodland, Calif.

“We will continue to offer the same line of extruded PVC products and take them to market with the same network of manufacturers' representatives,” said Prime Conduit in a letter to Carlon customers.

Robert Hartford, who was responsible for managing the sales and marketing of the PVC conduit business for Lamson & Sessions, will be Prime Conduit's director of marketing and sales. He said the transaction is a positive and exciting development for the former Carlon PVC business.

Prime Conduit will operate the same as the Carlon PVC conduit business, he said. “These are Carlon manufacturing plants so the product quality, delivery, all the things that made us strong in the market remain intact,” he said. “And now we frankly have a more competitive position in the market as this new, independent company.”

T&B acquired the Lamson & Sessions rigid PVC conduit and pipe business as part of its $450 million purchase of Lamson & Sessions Co., in November, 2007. T&B kept the Carlon fittings business and moved production of those products into T&B facilities.

Manufacturers' reps seemed pleased about the acquisition by Mitsubishi. “For me, it's a lot better because they're a prime manufacturer,” said one manufacturer's rep. “They have their own resin company, whereas Carlon had to purchase resin from other people who didn't necessarily make us competitively priced. Most of the reps are extremely happy about it because we just wasted a tremendous amount of time trying to make Carlon competitive with companies they couldn't possibly be competitive with.”

Prime Conduit's Hartford agrees that the move will bring competitive advantages. “I think we are going to be able to be extremely competitive in the market,” he said. “That has been a challenge, to be consistently competitive in the marketplace and grow our market share, because of the constraints of being a publicly traded company. Now to be free of those constraints, it represents a terrific opportunity.”

Hartford said at press time that it was difficult to comment too much since the deal had just closed and Prime Conduit had been busy sending out mass e-mails and mailings to let reps and customers know about the news.

T&B had announced its intent to sell the PVC conduit business in January following a strategic review of the Lamson & Sessions acquisition. T&B reported earnings of $99.5 million in the second quarter ended July 23.